Monday, December 12, 2005

The Shire

The riots in Cronulla made the front page of Google News today. And deservedly so. The part of the extensive, and horrifying, coverage that struck me the most was this passage from an eyewitness account on Crikey:
While I was on the phone I saw a young Middle Eastern Australian kid walk through the carpark, about ten metres away from me. I'd seen this kid on the news earlier this week defending his right to swim at his local beach. It wasn't long before he was being screamed at ("Leb c*nt", "Get off our beach" etc) and surrounded by a group of flag draped p*ssed idiots. The kid screamed back, fairly insistent on getting to the beach, for all of about ten seconds before he was hit by one of them and had to turn and run across the park toward Northies. The crowd of people up the slope to the Wall had noticed what was happening and all of a sudden it was on.

The mob chased this kid into Northies, straight through the traffic which was brought to a sudden standstill with the now thousands of people surrounding the entry to Northies. Imagine a group of thousands of people, and I really do mean thousands of people, all chasing one kid into a pub and then standing outside screaming the most hateful and violent trash talk, throwing bottles, jumping on cars containing children that were stuck in the crowd. The kid they were after was about 17 and would weigh in at a huge 60kg. I could not believe my eyes that a lynching like this could happen anywhere, let alone Cronulla beach.

Last week, when there were murmurings in the press about race violence in Cronulla, I dismissed them. I grew up in the Shire (something I'll be keeping even quieter from now on), and remember that Cronulla has always been a WASPY place, that hates anyone from outside their beloved "Shire". Mind you, the Northern Beaches (the Insular Peninsular) is just as bad. It's just that Cronulla Beach has the best public transport of any beach in Sydney. Anyone who has read Puberty Blues knows that there have always been huge tensions between the westies (once wogs, now Lebos) and the surfers of Cronulla. And they (the Cronulla boys) always claim it is about protecting "their" women, even though (see Puberty Blues again), the surfer culture is not known for being the most feminist in the world.

So it all seemed a bit of a beat-up last week.

But this week, I'm stunned at what thousands of my fellow Australians can cheerfully organise. A carefully premeditated race riot.

Lavartus Prodeo has a roundup of the blogger views. But of the ones I have read, Jason Soon of catallaxy in his post Pogroms in Sydney sums it up my views best. While nobody was killed, the image above of a 17 year old kid being beaten up purely for the crime of looking arabic chills my blood.

Andrew Norton at the same blog disagrees. But I don't see how you can avoid the racist element of these riots. They were deliberately targeted at people who looked middle eastern/ arabic. His view is that because these riots were in response to a specific incident, not deliberately organised by a pre-existing racist group (just piggy backed by some) that they will soon blow over. Maybe he's right (I hope so). But to me, these riots seem much more racist than Macquarie Fields or even Redfern. If there isn't an organised group yet, there may be one soon.

Maybe Tim Blair has it right when he says

Round ‘em up—all of them, from both sides—charge ‘em, convict ‘em, jail ‘em.


At 8:50 pm, Blogger Tjilpi said...

I doubt that Tim Blair's simplistic solution would work unless more than 50% of both sides were locked up!


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